Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s (above) administration is set to approve a law that would grant the Obama Presidential Center a 99-year lease in the city for just $10
The presidential center named after Barack Obama will pay the city of Chicago $10 for a 99-year lease to use 19.3 acres of public land, it has been revealed.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration is asking the City Council to approve two ordinances that would pave the way for the construction of the Obama Presidential Center in historic Jackson Park.
The park, a 500-acre public space on the shores of Lake Michigan in the city’s South Side, is just a few blocks away from the University of Chicago.
The park was selected over nearby Washington Park, which also was proposed by the University of Chicago, where Obama taught constitutional law as he was embarking on a political career that led him to the Illinois Senate, the U.S. Senate and ultimately the White House.
The center is expected to be a boon to the city’s South Side, providing jobs to communities that have long struggled with gang violence and high unemployment.
But the development plans have been met with criticism from neighborhood and community advocates who say that the overall benefit to the area may be overstated.
A rendering of the proposed Obama Presidential Center, which is scheduled to be built in nearby Jackson Park, is displayed at the South Shore Cultural Center during a roundtable discussion moderated by former President Barack Obama on May 3, 2017 in Chicago
The center will feature a museum inside a 235-foot tower, a forum, and a combination athletic/conference center. Former President Obama and his wife, former First Lady Michelle Obama, are seen in this file photo from last year looking at a rendering
As part of the plan, the six-lane roadway which now partially runs through Jackson Park will be transformed into a pedestrian and bike path
‘The idea of leasing invaluable, irreplaceable public parkland to a private entity for $10 for 99 years is astounding in this era when public lands and natural resources are under attack in so many places,’ Jackson Park Watch co-founder Margaret Schmid told the Chicago Sun-Times.
‘Besides, Chicago’s finances are extremely precarious.
‘Yes, this is symbolic, but symbolism is significant.’
Emanuel is also asking city legislators to approve the closing of a key artery in the city, Cornell Drive, part of which will be converted into park space that will connect parts of the Obama campus.
As part of the plan, the six-lane roadway which now partially runs through Jackson Park will be transformed into a pedestrian and bike path.
In January, Obama spoke highly of the huge attraction, which he said will be open throughout every season and free to the public, individuals of all backgrounds and interests, to visit for a variety of purposes
The idea is to connect the Obama Center to the Museum of Science and Industry campuses without forcing visitors to cross a street.
But the Cornell Drive shutdown is also being met with resistance by advocates who say that the roadway changes will likely cost taxpayers $175million, according to the Sun-Times.
The Obama project will also likely result in the city widening Lake Shore Drive and Stony Island Avenue – a massive infrastructure change that will also likey be subsidized by taxpayers.
While city taxpayers may need to foot the bill for changes to the landscape, the Barack Obama Foundation, which is operating the presidential center, will pay for the bulk of the construction costs.
In 2017, the foundation raised $232.6million, according to the Sun-Times.
It is the most the foundation has raised since it was founded in 2014.
Dozens of well-heeled donors ponied up at least $1million, among them Oprah Winfrey.
The total cost of building the Obama Presidential Center is estimated to be at least $350million.
The Chicago City Council is expected to pave the way for the construction of the Obama Presidential Center in historic Jackson Park. The park, a 500-acre public space on the shores of Lake Michigan in the city’s South Side, is walking distance from the University of Chicago
The center will feature a museum inside a 235-foot tower, a forum, and a combination athletic/conference center.
After it is built, the city will take ownership of the land and the buildings.
The Obama center will be required to offer free admission to the public for 52 days a year while keeping the open space available to the public whenever Jackson Park is open.
The Obama Foundation has said that it will give preference to hiring a diverse workforce so that it is representative of the community where it is located.
Obama’s presidential library will not be built on the site. The location of the library has yet to be determined.
In January, Obama spoke highly of the huge attraction, which he said will be open throughout every season and free to the public, individuals of all backgrounds and interests, to visit for a variety of purposes.
He explained: ‘Winding landscapes, a sledding hill, quiet spaces to read or reflect. The campus includes a museum, a library building, an athletic center.
‘Public meeting space where people of all backgrounds can come together for programming, training, take in a performance in the auditorium.’
He went on to say that although the center has his name on it, it is dedicated to ‘informing and inspiring the leaders of tomorrow.’
Most importantly: ‘Michelle and I want this center to be more than just a building. We want to create an economic engine for the South Side of Chicago… a cultural attraction that showcases the South Side to the rest of the world.’